Episode Synopsis: With Suletta engaged to Miorine and Guel’s pride heavily wounded, it’s time for a rematch! Now that she’s formally part of the school’s dueling scene, Suletta is introduced to the duelists’ society and their rules. When she sets out to battle Guel in his new mobile suit, she finds herself hampered by outside interference, which Miorine decides to put an end to. When the battle is finished, more matrimonial surprises are in store! Episode Review: I’ve been enjoying The Witch from Mercury more than some of my peers here at the Con Artists, and I found this episode to be pretty enjoyable. It’s more focused than episode 2, and it feels like we’ve finished establishing the stakes for our heroes and those around them. I do agree that some nagging issues remain, but I’m more confident that I’ll enjoy the rest of the show than I was during the last episode. Much of this episode is focused on Guel, the bullying jerk Suletta defeated in their first duel. He doesn’t seem particularly broken up about losing Miorine at this point; he’s in it for his injured pride. After seeing the way his father abuses and dismisses him, it’s not hard to see why he’s so quick to lash out at others to make himself feel powerful. In a painful twist, his new mobile suit has been outfitted with an automated piloting system that doesn’t even require his input – a clear sign that his father has no faith in his son. For as much of a jackass Guel can be, this episode does a good job of eliciting sympathy for him. Though he doesn’t express it well, he’s grateful to Suletta for standing up for him to other members of the student dueling council, and by the end of their fight, he’s thoroughly impressed with the young lady as both a skilled fighter and a person of noble character. We also hear Suletta reiterate her mother’s mantra of “retreat and gain one, advance and gain two”. The earlier explanation felt a bit muddy, so this episode really spells it out. By backing away from a challenge, you gain safety, but only that. By staring down the challenge, you gain a combination of experience, self-worth, recognition, and strength. I appreciate a philosophy that doesn’t see backing down as a complete failure, even if it gets repeated a bit too much for my taste. It’s certainly a more cohesive belief that Delling’s whole “the only ones that get to kill humans are other humans (and I guess their guns, drones, mobile suites, etc)” schtick. By this point, we’ve gotten to see a good deal of how the school operates, and to a lesser extent, the backroom dealing and politicking of the Benerit Group. It’s an odd sort of corpro-aristocracy that reminds me a lot of the war profiteering that went on in the background of Gundam Wing. While presenting themselves as a business conglomerate, the Group operates more like an alliance of noble families, jockeying for position while sending their scions to an elite school to test themselves against each other. Both of these two worlds intertwine as the actions of one can have serious consequences for the other, setting up a lot of opportunities for drama as we move forward. Though some of the world-building is odd by Gundam standards (see our previous posts for details), there are smaller elements that I appreciate. The mobile suit designs are sleek and bold – not my favorite of the franchise, but fitting well within the current aesthetic. I quite like the school uniforms, which seem far more practical and comfortable than similar outfits in other shows. The characters are all distinct, and there’s a greater range of ethnicities and body types than you may be used to seeing. I may not be 100% sold on the broad strokes of the Ad Stella universe, but I appreciate their interest in the fine details. The centerpiece of the episode is the second duel between Suletta and Guel, and it’s appropriately energetic and engaging, if sometimes silly. Guel’s new machine is able to predict Suletta’s attacks and counter them, requiring no pilot input at all. It can launch its limbs and emit beam sabers from the connection points, which seems like an extremely niche design quirk. Most absurdly, it can fire its GRAPPLING FEET to rapidly change direction and hamper its foes. Gundam has always had some pretty quirky designs, but this is the first one since G Gundam that made me laugh out loud when it was revealed. As if GRAPPLING FEET weren’t bad enough for Suletta, sprinklers begin showering the field, making her beam weapons far less effective. It’s here that Miorine makes herself useful, tracking down the source of the disruption and handling it with extreme prejudice. Unsurprisingly, this allows Suletta to win, but only after being on the back foot for most of the fight and learning to appreciate Guel’s strength of will after he continues to fight viciously when his automated systems are disabled. It also ends with a surprising twist that will probably throw the relationship between Suletta, Miorine, and Guel into even further chaos. Summary: My appreciation for the show has gone up with this latest (as of this writing) episode. It remains to be seen if the school dueling pastiche holds up, or if we swing wildly off into more familiar Gundam territory with outright war and conflict, but for now I’m content to see how it plays out. I’m warming up to Miorine, and Suletta seems to be finding her voice a little bit more. Hopefully the trend continues, but we’ll have to wait and see!